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FIFA defends kick-off times at 2014 World Cup

Published:Saturday | September 29, 2012 | 12:00 AM


Players' health in Brazil has not been jeopardised to please European broadcasters, FIFA's top 2014 World Cup official said yesterday after some matches were scheduled in early-afternoon heat.

"The health of the player and the quality of the game is on the top of the list before any other consideration - and definitely no commercial consideration," FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said.

FIFA detailed group-stage kick-off times Thursday with tropical cities Natal, Recife and Salvador each hosting two matches at 1 p.m. local time - 6 p.m. in prime family viewing time in central Europe.

Pressed by Brazilian reporters at a news conference, Valcke made a passionate defence of the FIFA-approved schedule.

"I can't even imagine why and how you could think that we are making decisions thinking about the television," he said.

Kick-off slots in the early stages of the monthlong tournament are 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., meaning the latest matches start at midnight in central Europe. Starting the first match later would have pushed the third match further into the night in Europe, which has 13 of the 32 teams taking part.

Valcke said broadcasters would only be happy with good football. FIFA's financial report last year showed that European networks paid a combined $1.29 billion for rights to the 2010 World Cup - around 30 per cent of FIFA's total income for the four-year financial cycle.

FIFA had also consulted its medical committee before agreeing the match schedule, Valcke said.

Natal, Recife and Salvador, on the northeast coast, can expect temperatures around 32 degrees Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) in June.

In the western Amazon rainforest, Manaus will host two of its four matches at 3 p.m. local time, probably in high humidity.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter recalled that the World Cups of 1970 and 1986 in Mexico scheduled matches at "high noon" in hotter temperatures than Brazil, and at altitude.

The 1994 World Cup in the United States also featured matches played in the mid-30s Celsius and fierce humidity.